For enthusiasts of BMW’s high-performance M cars, it was a dream weekend in Greer, South Carolina, October 14-16, as the 50th anniversary of BMW Motorsport was celebrated at the BMW CCA Foundation’s The Ultimate Driving Museum.
Over three days, hundreds of attendees observed BMW Motorsport’s golden jubilee with a stunning museum exhibit, a star-studded panel discussion featuring Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever and former BMW factory racer Bill Auberlen, high-speed driving events, and a festive Cars and Coffee.
Organized by the BMW Performance Center, the BMW CCA Foundation, and the BMW Car Club of America’s M Chapter, the M Anniversary Celebration kicked off on Friday, October 14, at the Foundation’s The Ultimate Driving Museum. The current exhibit, The Power of M, celebrates the 50th anniversary of BMW Motorsport with 26 rare and significant vehicles from M and Motorsport. The exhibit includes limited-edition cars like the E30 M3 Cecotto, the E46 M3 CSL, and the E90 M3 CRT. Other noteworthy racing machines included the first 3.0 CSL to enter a race in Europe, an original M1 Procar raced by Toine Hezemans, a multi-time endurance champion Z4 M GT, the first E36 M3 GT raced by Team PTG in IMSA, and the Daytona-winning M8 GTE campaigned by BMW of North America Team RLL.
On Friday evening, the BMW CCA Foundation hosted a cocktail hour at the BMW Zentrum followed by a panel discussion celebrating the achievements of BMW Motorsport’s founding director Jochen Neerpasch. Featuring special guests Eddie Cheever and Bill Auberlen, the discussion was moderated by BMW of North America’s Tom Plucinsky. Although Neerpasch was unable to attend in person, he sent his regards via a video from Germany, which the Foundation complemented with additional footage about his career and his continuing enthusiasm for the CSL and M1 created under his direction.
In a rare public appearance, Cheever entertained all in attendance with his recollections of his time as a member of the original BMW Junior Team created by Neerpasch in 1977. With low-key humor and genuine appreciation, Cheever described training with the Motorsport team in St. Moritz and battling with his teammates in Formula 2 and touring car racing before moving on to Formula 1 and IndyCar racing.
“I am here to say thank you because Mr. Neerpasch and BMW set me on the path to becoming a professional race-car driver,” said Cheever.
Auberlen is well-known as BMW’s all-time winningest driver, as well as the winningest driver overall in IMSA racing. In conversation with Cheever, he offered new insights into the technical and operational changes he’s experienced over a 30-year career as a professional racer.
“It is an honor for me to carry Mr. Neerpasch’s standards forward for BMW Motorsport,” said Auberlen.
As a special bonus, attendees had the chance to win a number of valuable prizes drawn at random. Continental Tire donated four M Schools at the BMW Performance Center, plus a set of four Continental tires. Other prizes included a set of custom-made CocoMats, a hardcover and softcover copy of The Power of M exhibit book donated by Hagerty, and Adrian Mitu art prints signed by Cheever and Auberlen, to name just a few.
On a warm and sunny Saturday morning, the BMW Performance Center hosted a high-performance driving school, followed by an afternoon of exhibition laps featuring several cars borrowed from The Power of M exhibit. Guests could sign up for hot laps in BMW of North America’s classic race cars: the Z4 GTLM, E92 M3 GT, and Stars and Stripes E46 M3 GTR. The latter was driven by Auberlen, who had raced it to an historic win at Petit Le Mans in 2001.
Organized by the Performance Center’s Mike Renner, the on-track festivities allowed enthusiasts to see nearly every M car built over the last 50 years circulating on the Performance Center’s road course. All the M5s were represented, as were M3s of every generation and description. Several rare race cars made an appearance, too, including a pair of ex-BMW Motorsport CSLs, the Alpina-built Levi’s CSL, the ex-factory E30 M3 raced by Ray Korman for BMW of North America, Bimmerworld Racing’s spectacular Pikes Peak hillclimb car, and the ex-Turner Motorsport tube-framed M6 racer. For those who like their M vehicles with two wheels, Nate Kern demonstrated the abilities of BMW’s latest M1000RR superbike.
On Sunday morning, a casual Cars and Coffee allowed guests to wind down the weekend in easy camaraderie, checking out a number of new and classic M cars at BMW CCA headquarters.
Sponsors for the event included The Tire Rack, Continental Tire, FCP Euro, BMW Value Services, The Werk Shop, CocoMats, BMW of North America, Century BMW, Hagerty, Enthusiast Auto Group.
The Ultimate Driving Museum will continue to celebrate BMW Motorsport’s 50th anniversary with The Power of M exhibit through late January 2023, while the BMW Performance Center offers its M schools and other driving events year-round.
Along with 25 cars and one motorcycle, The Power of M includes informative displays throughout, telling the history of the cars and BMW M in words and photos.
The exhibit was commemorated with a lavishly produced book that features the history of each car and the M brand/BMW Motorsport, with text by Jackie Jouret alongside new photography by Klaus Schnitzer and archival photos. The books are sold through the BMW CCA Foundation Store as well as Amazon.
Open to the public from May 16 through January 2023,The Power of M: Celebrating 50 Years is the fifth major exhibit staged by the BMW CCA Foundation. It follows these previous major exhibitions: 2017’s Heroes of Bavaria; 2018’s The ICON: 50 Years of the 2002; 2019’s PASSION: 50 Years of BMW Cars and Community; and 2020’s GENESIS: BMW From the Beginning. GENESIS closed in May 2021 following a successful year-long run at The Ultimate Driving Museum – right across Highway 101 from BMW Manufacturing, and next door to the BMW Performance Center in Greer, South Carolina.